I still remember when my father had dairy cattle, even though I was just a child.
He would spend hours working on the farm, milking cows, feeding cows, keeping them healthy, cleaning the barn, and so much more.
Having these dairy cows on our farm made me realize that dairy farmers don’t get time off. If they do, it’s far and in between.
Cows need to get milked at least twice a day. The cows don’t care if it is Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, your birthday, or your anniversary. Milking cows is a full-time job that demands the dairy farmer to be physically and mentally capable to manage the dairy herd every single day.
Even though this was several years ago, and dairy farms have become larger and more advanced, dairy farming is still dominated by family-owned farms. All of them dedicate their time and energy on their dairy herd while still raising a family, paying bills, tending a crop, and caring for young stock.
According to the Corn & Soybean Digest article “Dairy Industry Facts” by Kent Thiesse, a farmer spends on average a little more than 40 hours a year on each dairy cow.
Cows came over to America with the pilgrims and immigrants starting in 1611. For a couple hundred years, almost every family had at least one cow to provide not only milk but meat and labor for their family. The milking was done by hand.
By the 1800s, dairy cows and milk products were starting to become mass produced because the United States became more industrialized and the shift from rural to inner city steadily increased. With the invention of pasteurization in 1864, and the invention of mechanical refrigeration in 1861, milk became safer to drink and easier to store.
The increase in knowledge and use of genetics, nutrition, breeding, preservation of milk and technology led to an increase in milk production, consumption, and transportation.
In the early 1920s, you would expect a cow to produce roughly 484 gallons a year, but because the dairy industry has become specialized on just milking, a cow can produce more than 2,000 gallons a year today. Just in the last 10 years, milk production in the United States has increased by 16 percent according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. The production per cow has been increasing while the number of dairy cows in the United States is decreasing.
Since 1937, June has become recognized as National Dairy Month.
This month is used to advocate drinking milk and consuming other dairy products as well as to celebrate advancements in the dairy industry.
This month, I want to recognize those families that work day-in and day-out on dairy farms.
So some time during the month of June, raise a glass (of milk that is) to those hardworking, dedicated and passionate dairy farmers.
Cheers to you!
• Minnesota is ranked 6th in the U.S. for dairy production with 5 percent of the United States’ dairy cows
• Each dairy cow on average produces 2,300 gallons of milk per year.
• Dairy production is Minnesota’s second largest livestock sector behind hog production with 4,500 dairy farms.
• Stearns County is number one in the state for dairy production. Of the top 100 dairy farms in Minnesota, 29 of these dairy farms are from Stearns County. This list was determined based on cow care and low somatic cell count.
• In 2008, Stearns County produced 1,343 million pounds of milk.
• In 2011, the United States produced 196.245 billion pounds of milk setting a record.
• By 2011, the average American adult consumed 200 lbs. of fluid milk and cream
Facts and statistics were retrieved from the Minnesota Dairy Industry Profile from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Corn & Soybean Digest, “Dairy Industry Facts” by Kent Thiesse, the International Dairy Foods Association, and the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board